French Fries Aren’t French

Did you know that french fries are actually from Belgium, not France? French fries, or Belgium fries, are actually an important part of Belgium culture. They began in the late 1700s when people began frying potatoes during cold winters when they could not catch enough fish. The name, “french fries,” was coined during World War I when American soldiers ate fried potatoes from Belgian soldiers. The language of the Belgian army was French so they started calling them french fries. Today, they are often eaten as a side dish to a meal and fried on street corners and topped with mayonnaise.

Belgium, as a federal state, has three communities, three regions, and three national languages. It is interesting to know that there is no centralized government in this country, however, the French fries– Belgian national dish – are considered the country’s national symbol. A retired professor from the Royal Academy of Fine Arts states: “Belgium doesn’t have a national symbol, there’s no Eiffel Tower, but we have frites.” Moreover, the recent movement called Fries Revolution (Frietrevolutie) chose Fries as the symbol of their protest and demonstrated that the french fries keeps this country together, as the following video-clip clearly claims:

The Belgians take a lot of pride in their fries. So much, in fact, that they decided to open a museum dedicated to fries! The Frietmuseum opened in May in Bruges, Belgium. According to their website, they prefer that you call “french fries” Belgian potato fries instead. The museum includes a complete history of the Belgian fry as well as giant fry sculptures! Of course, there are fries to eat too.

Americans have made french fries a huge part of their culture by pairing them with an American hamburger or cheeseburger. McDonald’s sells 2.736 billion pounds of french fries ever year, but they are quite different than Belgian fries. They are highly-processed and often pre-made by freezing the fries and then cooking them – far from the quality of fresh cut potatoes in Belgium! Belgians also prefer to use a specific type of potato native to Belgium called a bintje. Their fries are also about three times thicker than a McDonald’s fry. In the U.S., fries are usually paired with ketchup instead of mussels or mayonnaise. So maybe french fries are a part of American culture, but certainly not in the same way they are a part of Belgian culture. Belgians take pride in their fries while Americans just seem to enjoy eating their rendition of the frites.

Co-Written By Jinsong.